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Multilingual Middle Ages - MST00088M

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  • Department: Centre for Medieval Studies
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Christine Williamson
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

Language is one of our most central ways of engaging with the past. Whether reading poetry, analysing documents, or interpreting inscriptions, all disciplines of medieval studies draw upon one essential branch of scholarship: language. Moreover, many people and societies in the Middle Ages were multilingual. Conquests, migrations and conversions brought languages into contact, fundamentally reshaping them. Scribes, authors, and engravers knowingly deployed and moved between languages. The languages offered in this module range from those spoken in northern Europe and the North Atlantic (Old English and Old Norse), to those which connected people within and across the borders of the Afro-Eurasian world (Latin and Old French). (Arabic, the most global of all these languages, is available via the module ‘Arabic for Medievalists’.)

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

This module has two integrated aims. First, to provide students with training in two languages in order to develop their ability to work with each language and its translations. Second, to engage with the concept of multilingualism and so to recognise the dynamic interplay between these languages, and even (in a workshop in week 5) Arabic. By taking two languages together you will become aware of how languages may have resembled each other in structure, or how they changed in contact with each other on the levels of grammar, vocabulary and subject matter, and the meanings they could acquire.

Students in this module may choose from Latin, Old English, Old Norse and Old French. The Latin and Old English provision caters for complete beginners, as well as those with prior knowledge of these languages. Tuition in Old French and Old Norse is aimed at those with little or no previous training.

Module learning outcomes

At the end of the course students will have:

  • Developed their knowledge of the grammatical rules and vocabulary of two medieval languages

  • Developed a capability to translate and engage with a range of texts in two different languages in order to use them in their particular fields of interest

  • Gained an awareness of medieval languages and the multilingual world in which they were used

Module content

This 20-credit module consists of one 90-minute introductory session in week 1, twenty 90-minute classes in weeks 2-11, and a 2-hour workshop on multilingualism in week 5.


Task Length % of module mark
Closed/in-person Exam (Centrally scheduled)
Closed exam
3 hours 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Closed/in-person Exam (Centrally scheduled)
Closed exam
3 hours 100

Module feedback

There will be weekly verbal feedback on class translation exercises and formative assessments in weeks 6 and 10, the latter providing written feedback on progress. Exam results are given within 25 working days. The module is offered pass/fail.

Indicative reading

Tutors will either direct students to a textbook or provide course booklets and weekly handouts that cover all the texts and grammar topics considered on this module.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.